When a family suffers the death of a child, the reverberations can extend beyond the immediate period of bereavement. When a child is born into a family that has suffered such a loss, there is concern that the new child might be compromised in his or her development. Such a baby is often described as a “replacement child,” a substitute or replacement for the child who died. This baby is at risk for later psychological difficulties because of an inability to form an identity separate from that of the dead child. When parents are unable to fully mourn the death of their child, it may compromise the next child’s mental health by imbuing it with the qualities and characteristics of the dead sibling, thereby continuing to mourn the earlier death.
In Dr. Jaffe’s beautiful memoir she reveals her own struggles as the replacement child and how with hard work, therapy and determination she was to overcome her feelings of inadequacy and less than.
You will be moved as you read her story of growing up a replacement child. She has learned that while she can never undo all the negativity that she lived with, she can learn to tame I have those damaging voices to a barely audible level. She teaches you that it takes time to build inner strength over a shaky foundation, but with diligence and introspection, we can replace our imbalances.
WHEN WILL I BE GOOD ENOUGH: A REPLACEMENT CHILD’S JOURNEY TO HEALING by Barbara Jaffe, Ed.D. is available now.
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Preface to When Will I Be Good Enough
Abigail Brenner, M.D.
Author of Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script
by Rita Battat Silberman & Abigail Brenner, M.D
“Careful the things you say, children will listen.”
These powerful words from the musical Into the Woods go to the heart of the matter in describing the delicate and precarious interaction between parents and their children. Children are not blank slates as had once been thought. Quite the contrary, children are born with their own temperament which strongly influences their disposition and developing personality. But often this unfolding personality is highjacked because of early programming and parental intervention. When Will I Be Good Enough? A Replacement Child’s Journey to Healing is Barbara Jaffe’s beautiful rendering of such a story—one that poignantly shows us what can happen when the influence of a beloved parent changes the course of a young person’s life; alters the way a child sees and learns to move through the world.
There are so many layers to this book. Any one of us can relate to the parent-child dynamic. Many of us feel misunderstood by those we feel should know us best of all—our parents. Children often feel as if they are not seen and heard for who they are in their own right. The theme of not being truly known for who we are still runs deep in the lives of many adults who often take decades, and sometimes a lifetime, to come to terms with the consequences of their lives and to find peace through acceptance of themselves. If this were not a difficult enough task, consider the dilemma of the replacement child, one who is born to replace another child who has died, in its most basic definition. While many babies born after the death of another are welcomed into a family and loved for the unique individual they are, the replacement child carries the added burden of keeping their parent(s) focused on the forward motion of life in spite of unresolved grief which continues to haunt them, often for a lifetime. Barbara after Jeffrey. A mother’s inability to see her daughter standing in her own light, out of the shadow of a brother she never knew.
The replacement child lives to please, lives to keep the peace, lives to be “good enough” in their parents’ eyes. But the replacement child often falls short, not because of anything they’ve done, but because a parent who lives in grief also lives in the past—in the time before their child’s death. The replacement child is supposed to be the “fixer,” the one born to make up for the devastating loss but instead often ends up feeling like second best, the “replacement” for the original other, the one who was supposed to be here but isn’t. And then there are the limiting beliefs, the preconceived thoughts, ideas, and pronouncements seemingly written in stone, which are handed down from parent to child. Even questioning what is handed down to us as children often amounts to a kind of betrayal, for how can a child want anything different from a beloved parent who surely knows what’s best for them?
When Will I Be Good Enough? A Replacement Child’s Journey to Healing takes us on the twists and turns of a journey of self-discovery to a place of self-acceptance. It is a beautiful portrait of a life unfolding, blossoming into its full beauty. It is a story of taking control of one’s life, of taking responsibility for becoming the person one is meant to be, of learning how to listen to one’s own voice and of learning how to trust one’s own internal compass. Barbara Jaffe teaches us that although we may never get the recognition we so deserve from those we want it most, we can ultimately get what we need from the best place imaginable—from within ourselves.